3 June 2015

Magonia -Tour, Review & Guest Post

by Maria Dahvana Headley

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What they say: Neil Gaiman’s Stardust meets John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars in this fantasy about a girl caught between two worlds... two races…and two destinies.

Aza Ray is drowning in thin air. 

Since she was a baby, Aza has suffered from a mysterious lung disease that makes it ever harder for her to breathe, to speak—to live. 

So when Aza catches a glimpse of a ship in the sky, her family chalks it up to a cruel side effect of her medication. But Aza doesn't think this is a hallucination. She can hear someone on the ship calling her name.

Only her best friend, Jason, listens. Jason, who’s always been there. Jason, for whom she might have more-than-friendly feelings. But before Aza can consider that thrilling idea, something goes terribly wrong. Aza is lost to our world—and found, by another. Magonia. 

Above the clouds, in a land of trading ships, Aza is not the weak and dying thing she was. In Magonia, she can breathe for the first time. Better, she has immense power—and as she navigates her new life, she discovers that war is coming. Magonia and Earth are on the cusp of a reckoning. And in Aza’s hands lies the fate of the whole of humanity—including the boy who loves her. Where do her loyalties lie? 

Buy Links:

Amazon UK * Amazon US

I received a copy from Harper360 in exchange for an honest review!

What I say: I'm going to start by saying that Magonia isn't like anything I've read before. I've been trying to think of an accurate way of describing the plot, as on paper 'bird people living in secret sky ships' sounds pretty nuts (and honestly it is) but it works. Think YA paranormal meets sci-fi, then throw in some high fantasy and you're on the right track. 

I'm not a fan of comparing one book to another but I will say I could understand the Stardust comparison but not really The Fault in Ours Stars one. The world building in Magonia is unique and wacky, but it made me smile. I found myself engrossed in Aza's story. I will admit the names and descriptions were a little confusing at times but this wasn't really off-putting. I appreciated the nod towards urban legends/history incorporated into the story.

Aza Ray is sick. She's always been sick and she's very blasé about death, dying and illness. Nobody knows what's wrong with her or why she cannot breath properly. In between being ill and visits to the hospital, Aza spends her time with her genius best friend Jason (whom I loved). A glimpse of something strange in the sky changes everything. I'm not going spoil the plot by giving you a blow-by-blow account of events, and honestly you may think you know a story from the blurb or by reading reviews, but with Magnoia seeing (or reading) really is believing! 

I really enjoyed the quirky plot, and although it took me a little while to soften towards Aza's unique narrative voice, I really liked her. There are some fab twists and turns throughout the book, plus the ending is surprising and different.

4 - 4.5 Stars in my Sky!

Special post from Maria Dahvana Headley on the inspiration behind MAGONIA:

Hi there! Thanks for hosting me here today. Magonia came from a lot of things, both personal and literary, which is my ideal version, I suspect. I love to mix fantastical elements together with things that are really grounded in reality, and that's what Magonia is all about. 

First off, the inspiration for Magonia came from some Medieval lore regarding sky ships and crop theft - yes, it is what it sounds like, early UFO mythology! I happened upon it while researching something else, and I was so instantly obsessed there was nothing to be done. I had to write a book. Actually, first I had to check and make sure Neil Gaiman hadn't already written about it, because come on. That's so up his alley too. I was lucky. Neil hadn't gotten there first! Yay! So I wrote like the wind. There's a wonderful scrap of 11th century lore in the Annals of Ulster, involving a bunch of churchgoers coming out of church on a stormy day and seeing an anchor drop out of the clouds above them, and tangle in the rocks of earth. A sailor climbs down the anchor chain, trying to disentangle it, and partway down, he drowns in the air. That was the first thing I read, and all of Magonia spiraled out from there. There's also a piece of Magonian lore from 815 AD France, regarding a group of people who claim to have fallen off a Magonian sky ship, and landed on earth. I invented the rest of the book, but not without ingredients that had come from some other places! 

In my early 20s, I worked in the boat business, in a small company that did hydrographic surveys with charter ships. I did a lot of different things for the company, and one of them, unexpectedly, was negotiating with pirates. That wasn't my job description, but it was a thing I did, because sometimes my ships did things in dangerous waters. I also did a lot of negotiating with big companies and politicians whose work I found to be environmentally objectionable, and with people who were doing very interesting things such as searching for Amelia Earhart's plane. Clearly, all of that went right into this book. It was a crazy job. I was one of the few women in that part of the business, so that was also crazy. There's a reason there are so many female ship captains in Magonia, and it's that I never met even one on earth. I always wanted to. 

The third ingredient to the story, and this relates specifically to Aza Ray, the protagonist, is that I'm a diabetic, and when I was a teenager I had a near death experience. I'd recently come down with diabetes, and I got incredibly sick. I left my body and went into the white light - the classic thing, along with some other weird elements - and some of the things that happen in the book are taken directly from that very emotional experience, the one of dying and then discovering you're not dead. How to start over. This is a book, after all, not just about my experience of being an alienated teenager, but about the experience of feeling like an alien, which I think almost everyone has had. Feeling so strange that you think no one could possibly love you. I wanted to write a story in which love is possible, amidst strangeness, pain, devastation, and resurrection. There's a lot of joy in Magonia, even though it will also probably make you cry. No one who knows me has yet made it through the death part, and a lot of people who don't know me have tweeted me sobs.  So yes, two parts truth, one part fiction, as far as inspirations go. It makes sense that it's a book that takes place both on  Earth and in an imaginary sky kingdom, and that the two places are entwined with one another, because all of it was entwined in my head. The world is miraculous to me, daily, and this is a book about those miraculous possibilities.  

Author Spotlight:

Maria Dahvana Headley is the author of the upcoming young adult skyship novel MAGONIA from HarperCollins, the dark fantasy/alt-history novel QUEEN OF KINGS, the internationally bestselling memoir THE YEAR OF YES, and THE END OF THE SENTENCE, a novella co-written with Kat Howard, from Subterranean. With Neil Gaiman, she is the New York Times-bestselling co-editor of the monster anthology UNNATURAL CREATURES, benefitting 826DC. 

Her Nebula and Shirley Jackson award-nominated short fiction has recently appeared on Tor.com, and in The Toast, Clarkesworld, Lightspeed, Nightmare, Apex, The Journal of Unlikely Entomology, Subterranean Online, Glitter & Mayhem and Jurassic London's The Lowest Heaven and The Book of the Dead, and will soon appear in Uncanny, Shimmer, and more. It's anthologized in the 2013 and 2014 editions of Rich Horton's The Year's Best Fantasy & Science Fiction, & Paula Guran's 2013 The Year's Best Dark Fantasy & Horror, in The Year's Best Weird Volume 1, ed. Laird Barron, and in Wastelands, Vol 2, among others. She's also a playwright and essayist. 

She grew up in rural Idaho on a sled-dog ranch, spent part of her 20's as a pirate negotiator and ship marketer in the maritime industry, and now lives in Brooklyn in an apartment shared with a seven-foot-long stuffed crocodile. 

Website * Twitter * Harper Collins 

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